It went so well: For the first time since the turn, employees in the Saxon food industry went on a warning strike. They organized themselves at Frosta, Bautzner Mustard and Cargill. It is about equalizing wages at western level, specifically up to 700 euros more per month and the prospect of a pension above the basic security. The NGG union hoped to use this collective bargaining round to “make history” in the union-skeptical east. The tariff conflict that has been running since December should be ramped up again these days. A wave of strikes was planned, hundreds of participants were expected at a central rally in Dresden. And now they’re not allowed to gather because of Corona. The strikes have been suspended for the time being. The collective bargaining round is to be kept running through other activities. However, the workers cannot really hit the plaster.
Almost all negotiations on wages and working conditions are currently taking place. Whether it’s the metal industry, construction, social and educational services or the food industry: collective bargaining has been postponed or suspended in very different industries. The corona crisis is affecting the union’s power resources. The question is, which options do you have under the current conditions?
The situation could not be more different: While people in the auto industry are sent home, daycare centers and youth facilities are closed, special layers in food production have to be scrubbed to meet the demand for pasta or frozen vegetables
Where the shop is tight anyway, the most important pressure medium is – strike – flute. IG Metall saw its skins swimming away more and more every day in the collective bargaining agreement and saved itself in short-term collective agreements that deal with pressing issues such as short-time work benefits and support for parents whose children cannot go to school or daycare. All other questions about the future, which were called up in the started round of tariffs, have been postponed. Opinions diverge among left-wing metalmen: One part criticizes a social partnership mistake of the union leaders, who instead of conflictedly went on a cuddle course with the capital side. Others hold dry: This is what the current balance of power looks like, but you don’t have to pretend.
However, industrial disputes have also been postponed in areas with the new “system-relevant” quality label, in which there is also a particularly good reason for strikes. In any case, public attention and gratitude are greater than ever – which could be an important pound. But as important as the production of food is and so much so a strike would currently hurt: “With our collective agreement we decided not to use this situation,” explains NGG secretary Olaf Klenke. Because there should hardly be any understanding for a stroll in the current situation. And could the union really be responsible for lost production? Employees in the east continue to pay 30 percent less than machines in the west. The union hopes to revive the momentum from the beginning of the wage round later.
But couldn’t one at least shout “Here” in the public service, when the state is currently making billions loose for companies? Verdi explains the postponement of the “educators’ collective bargaining” with organizational problems of bringing together negotiating committees with large members under corona conditions. Digital processes that ensure democratic participation are not practiced, it is said. But it certainly also plays a role that immediate crisis management is currently in the foreground. Trade unions are challenged like never before to secure jobs and pay and to ward off attacks by employers trying to capitalize on the crisis.
There is fear among trade unionists that standards and participation rights are now being suspended that cannot be retrieved later. Where there are no works councils, some of which were able to push the wages up to 80 or even 100 percent even in the shaken hotel industry with short-time work, massive fears are to be feared.
In left-wing trade union contexts, however, consideration is also given to how to start the debate about society after the crisis. They see starting points in how the role of the state can be redefined if market forces clearly fail to get the crisis under control. Many people are only now really aware of the importance of a functioning public infrastructure. “You have to talk about fundamental questions now,” says Wiesbaden trade union secretary Axel Gerntke, who is discussing concrete approaches in his IG Metall network. About the black zero, for example, which seemed to be carved in stone. Programs in the three-digit billion range would now be launched to support companies that have made high returns in the past. “That shows what is possible if it is politically wanted.”
Ten years ago in the financial crisis, leftists had high hopes that the right lessons would be learned. In the end, almost everything remained the same. It is therefore uncertain how sustainable the current crisis experience is, which is why left-wing trade unionists want their organizations to take a more offensive course. They see the initiative of the DGB unions to increase or increase the short-time allowance as a first step in this direction.
Networking for militant unions is still too defensive. Instead of short-time work allowance, they demand, for example, an exemption with full wages, special supplements for particularly stressed occupational groups, as well as a millionaire tax to finance an emergency program.
Union initiatives to realign the health system have already started. A petition “No more› The market already regulates this ‹” was signed by 100,000 people within two days. Hospital employees of Vivantes and the Charité have also sent an open letter to the Berlin Senate and their clinic directors, which combines specific immediate measures and basic requirements: from sufficient protective clothing, stress supplements and multivitamin juice to fundamental changes in the health system. They want to discuss this “promptly” with the health senator – of course by video conference.